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The Journal Gazette

  • Pittsburgh Pirates starter Gerrit Cole delivers a pitch against the Washington Nationals during the third inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 11:45 pm

Nationals' woes continue in 5-1 loss to Pirates

By BRIAN MCNALLYAssociated Press

New Washington Nationals hitting coach Rich Schu got a good look at what he's up against.

Only two of 30 teams entered the night with fewer runs scored than the Nationals this season. That offensive futility continued Tuesday in a 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Nationals Park.

Schu took over as hitting coach for Rick Eckstein, who was fired after Monday's loss to the Pirates. But Schu simply watched the same issues in his first game with the team. Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole allowed just one run in seven innings on two hits and struck out four batters as the fading Nationals lost for the 10th time in 12 games.

"We've been pretty unlucky," Washington outfielder Jayson Werth said. "Hitting balls hard at people. Guys making good plays on us. You talk about timely hitting - lately it's been untimely hitting. Instead of getting the big hit, we hit the ball that ends the rally."

The Nationals (48-52) fell a season-worst four games under .500 and have yet to win since the day before the All-Star break, July 14. That ugly losing skid has now reached five games - all at home to start the second half. They remained eight games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East after the Braves lost to the New York Mets. But they are now nine games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the second NL wild-card spot.

The lone Washington run came on a home run by catcher Wilson Ramos to lead off the bottom of the third inning. Bryce Harper opened the bottom of the first with a single and was promptly thrown out trying to steal second base. Werth was hit by a pitch in the next inning. Ian Desmond drew a leadoff walk in the fifth. Denard Span singled to start the eighth. Those were the Nats' only five base runners of the night. Other than Ramos, only Desmond reached second base.

Rookie starter Taylor Jordan tried to keep his team close in just his fifth big-league start. The 24-year-old allowed three runs in the second inning, but it took three soft singles, a walk and an error by infielder Anthony Rendon to do the damage.

Rendon, a third baseman in college and the minors now adjusting to second base on the fly at the major league level, dropped a throw from third baseman Ryan Zimmerman that could have resulted in an inning-ending double play. Instead the ball ticked off his glove and Pittsburgh's second run of the inning scored.

"That was the mistake an inexperienced second baseman makes on a throw from third," Washington manager Davey Johnson said. "You assume you're going to catch it and you peek towards the runner. And it's always that transition. You've got to see it in the glove before you do it."

Jordan (0-3) then gave up an RBI single to Cole, but recovered to retire 14 of the next 16 batters he faced and induced two double plays. Jordan pitched 7 2-3 innings, allowing nine hits and a walk, four strikeouts and four earned runs. He has given up three earned runs or less in three of his first four starts, but this was Jordan's longest outing so far. He had yet to pitch into the seventh inning.

"I'd love to get a first win," Jordan said. "I really wanted the win today because we needed it. I'd love to celebrate one time."

Jordan had allowed just seven singles through the seventh inning. But in the eighth he hung a change-up to Pedro Alvarez that was swatted into the left-field stands. Later in that frame reliever Ian Krol gave up an RBI double to pinch hitter Gaby Sanchez. It was more than enough for Cole (5-3).

"It seems like all year we've been talking about it's going to turn," Werth said. "Things are going to go our way, we're going to get a call that goes our way. It really hasn't yet."

NOTES: Johnson said LHP Ross Detwiler, on the DL since July 7, will meet with a back specialist in Los Angeles on Wednesday regarding his strained lower-back muscle. ... Schu had been serving as minor league hitting coordinator before being tabbed Monday to replace Eckstein. ... Pittsburgh LHP Francisco Liriano (9-4, 2.44 ERA) opposes Stephen Strasburg (5-7, 2.97) Wednesday night.